Zarifmo Aslamshoev: "If I ever decide to build a monument in Tajikistan, it will be a monument to a young woman."
In the media every day there are inspiring stories about Tajiks conquering the world, cool programmers, young scientists, talented designers. And this is a new young generation. But behind them are often those who support these youth, and this is the first generation of those who have lived and worked abroad for many years.
Let we talk about the mother of Dilafruz, a Tajik girl who joined the team of US President Joe Biden. Zarifmo Aslamshoeva, the first TV presenter in Badakhshan, who has been working as the editor-in-chief of the international department of CNN TV channel in Atlanta for more than 20 years.
She told into Asia-Plus about moving from Tajikistan to the United States during the civil war, about the first trials and the path to success.
"The USA is my land, and this is now my country"
- Zarifamo, what made you immigrate to the United States 20 years ago, tell us how you left for the United States?
- I left Tajikistan during the civil war. It was the darkest page in the history of Tajikistan. We did not see the future, as the Americans say, "the light at the end of the tunnel." I was very sad to see Tajikistan, Tajikistan, which was fought for and in which our ancestors, such as Shotemur, worked hard, being destroyed by those who did not even know the meaning of the term “Tajik state”.
It still pains me to remember the day when we left Dushanbe. Those who checked at the airport, who were supposed to check our documents, threw our bags so that they opened, all our clothes and books were on the floor. We could have been killed, which happened there every day. My little son, who was then three years old, did not understand what was happening and he was so happy to see his favorite book on the floor at the airport. He ran, grabbed her and began to show me his favorite photographs. I looked at him and wanted to be him ... just as happy and just as carefree.
The examiners looked at our Tajik (Soviet) citizenship. I heard how the man in the corner muttering angrily: “The Pamiris…..the Pamiris….”
Shotemur always called himself Tajik, even when others hid their nationality in order to get a better job. He was proud to be a Tajik from Badakhshan and me too. To those who say that the Pamiris, the Badakhshans are not Tajiks, but I will say: the Pamir Tajik Shotemur was among those who built Tajikistan!
- Was it hard for the first few days in the United States?
- Yes, it was the most difficult to be away from loved ones. Of course, it is not easy to start a new life in a completely different country with a different system. But I cannot complain. I am grateful. When people say - "you are in a foreign land", I do not agree. America is the land of immigrants. This is my land, and this is my country now. I'm at home. Atlanta is my hometown. Atlanta has given me so much happiness, my children grew up here, and as you know, my work in the company CNN is here, too.
"Through Dilafruz, the world learns about Tajikistan"
- Tell us about your family, about Dilafruz, whose appointment is on everyone's lips today.
- All my brothers and sisters stayed in Tajikistan. My husband and I moved to the United States with my children Dilafruz who was seven years old and my son Samandar who was three years old.
My husband Furkat Karamalisho is an engineer, I am the first presenter on TV Badakhshan. I was very happy, I loved my life, my work, everything, but the war began ...
For more than 25 years we have been living in America, living our American Dream. Since then, Dilafruz has grown to become a beautiful young woman with an excellent character and education.
It is not easy to become a Senior Counselor in the Biden-Harris administration. I am very proud of her. Her honesty, her generosity and kind heart made her special. She loves America and is proud to serve the people of America.
For all the achievements she has achieved, she remains humble, very respectful and friendly. She speaks fluently her native Shugnan language, and tries to keep abreast of all events in Tajikistan. Like her great-grandfather Shirinsho Shotemur, it presents itself as follows: "I am a Tajik Pamir".
My son Samandar –who is the most handsome man in the world - this year celebrated 29 years. He is a programmer with extensive experience, including for “Boeing Corporation”. He has three wonderful children and a beautiful wife.
- How did your children perceive the migration?
- They were very small, they did not understand a lot. My husband and I tried to make them happy and wanted them to have a carefree childhood. We tried to make them normal, with a normal childhood.
Before leaving the Pamirs, my husband and I began to learn English, sharing our knowledge with our children. We told them about a “distant country” with great opportunities and kind people. We didn’t want our children to be sad or to experience “culture shock” upon arrival in a new country. But when we came to America, we started telling stories about Tajikistan. Love for Tajikistan was laid in their hearts from an early age. Dilafruz always said that she would help the people of Tajikistan. I think that today she is helping her Tajik people, becoming the first Tajik woman working in the US administration - through Dilafruz, the world will learn about Tajikistan.
“Education, hard work and self-confidence helped me”
- How did the presenter of a regional TV station from distant Badakhshan get a job on the popular CNN channel?
- I have never thought that Badakhshan TV is weaker than any other central TV channels. I did my best to raise the quality of our programs to the highest level. I was the first presenter on TV Badakhshan, which was founded in the late 80s. And my answer to your question is simple - education, hard work and self-confidence helped me. I was brought up not to look down on other people, and at the same time they said that you are not lower (not worse) than others - do not think that you cannot achieve what others have achieved.
Therefore, in America, after a year of volunteering at FOCUS USA, the Red Cross, the World Bank and other organizations, I decided to apply to CNN International for an internship.
While raising funds for Tajikistan, I had to speak to a large audience, mainly large donors from America. Although I was not paid for this job, it helped me improve my English. Towards the end of 1996, I started an internship at CNN. It felt like home. Of course, it was slightly larger than my Badakhshan TV station, but the atmosphere was the same: gathering news, having to read a lot, calling other countries, making videos, etc.
I had other interns with me who had already written articles, and some of them began to prepare videos for the broadcast. But all I dreamed of was to speak English fluently and learn to work on a computer.
Unlike the BBC, CNN has no other language services. Neither Russian nor donate. So I needed to have excellent English to get a full-time job. It took almost two years, but I ended up getting a job at CNN as a foreign news editor.
Last year I was promoted to a senior producer at CNN. I am in charge of international live coverage and field reporters. If you see CNN's international correspondents anywhere in the world, they are my colleagues. If you see them delivering the news live, it means that they are working with me. I am very proud of all of them. Each of them is a legend!
"There are no such things as" through ", someone to decide
- Tell us how life in the United States differs from life in Tajikistan or in Russia?
- Since I came to America, there have been so many changes in the world. The world is getting smaller and smaller. And the coronavirus has once again demonstrated this.
We have to work together to protect the world and treat each other with dignity and respect, otherwise the world will collapse before our eyes. Look at global warming - it affects all of us. Yes, America is different from Russia or Tajikistan.
America is different from the rest of the world. She's different. What I like the most here is freedom and human dignity. Nobody ever says to me: "You cannot do this or that because you are a woman or because you are Tajik." I can do whatever I want.
Americans are the most hardworking people I have ever seen. Competition in the labor market is very high. You can't get a job or survive in a company if you don't work hard.
And no one will "get you a job." There are no such things as "someone decided for someone". You have to submit your resume, and then go through the interview, show yourself. Show that you are a knowledgeable person.
In America, there are still children who go to bed hungry. America still has poverty-stricken areas. Black Americans and Native Americans are the poorest. My heart aches for them. I hope that someday I will be able to contribute to improving the quality of life for blacks and Native Americans.
America's new administration is full of hope. I think we are already seeing changes, and the world will soon see the good things happening in America.
Another thing that never leaves me is young girls who come here to work. There are a lot of such young women in New York, Los Angeles and other states. Some of them come here right after graduating from high school. They are so young!
I am a mother and I get goosebumps when I see these beautiful, fragile girls traveling so far to help their families. But I want you to know I am so proud of them! I know that people in Tajikistan hear all kinds of "legends" about their lives, but let me tell you: they are real heroines. They are my heroines. Whenever I see any of them, I tell them about it. They help their parents, build houses and businesses for their families at home. They pamper their younger siblings.
To do all this and provide for their families, they lead a very modest lifestyle, giving up what they need or want.
If I ever decide to build a monument in Tajikistan, it will be a monument to this young woman. It will be the tallest statue, a statue of a very beautiful, young proud woman looking down at onlookers with dignity and pride, as if to say, “Do you see my contribution? It was done by me and other girls from my hometown ... ”.
Prepared by Manzuma Firuz,